Posted by: Sandy Steinman | February 22, 2012

Arizona Wildflower Update 2/21/12

Boyce Thompson Arboretum published the following wildflower report on 2/21/12 for Northern Arizona:

Wildflower Report For Tuesday February 21
Flowers have begun to appear here at the Arboretum – but remain few and scattered as of mid-February. We have good opportunities for flower macro-photography — and if you are looking for big landscapes of poppy-covered hillsides, those can be found about four miles due north of the Arboretum, in the National Forest on Peachville Mountain.

Spring color is off to a great start – drivers eastbound through Gold Canyon and towards Superior and Globe are already photographing the season’s first brittlebush, shown in the photo at right, and can see the first lupines and globemallow coloring the roadsides gold, blue and orange; respectively. Watch for these and fairy duster as you drive east of Queen Valley and up through Gonzales Pass this week.

Superior residents report massive hillsides of goldpoppies blooming on Peachville Mountain north of BTA. Hillside swaths of Mexican Goldpoppies, hundreds of acres worth, cover Peachville Mountain — which can be accessed by either of two well-maintained Forest Service dirt roads: Happy Camp Road (off Hewitt Station road), and also the Silver King Mine road closer to Superior. Roads accessing Peachville Mountain are accessible by light truck, SUV or high-clearance 2WD vehicles.

Arizona Native Plants Society Phoenix Chapter co-president Cass Blodgett made a scouting trip to Peachville Mountain February 11 and advises that while the Silver King Mine road which accesses this area is navigable – you’ll definitely want to have a reliable spare tire and a working jack: a truck with three flower photographer was pulled over and the driver removing a flat tire when Cass crossed their path. Silver King Mine road is graded dirt. No 4WD required, but you sure do want a vehicle with clearance… a Jeep, SUV or light truck, minimum.

Poppy blooms on the hills are so widespread that Highway 60 commuters passing by at 60 MPH will enjoy the flower show over the next two weeks simply by looking north as you drive between Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Superior. Watch for peak color in 7-14 days. And on your drive up the Silver King Mine road watch for Desert Lupine (L. sparsiflorus), Red Maids, Chia, Blue Dicks, Wild Heliotrope, Yellow Spine Aster and Desert Chichory. One more reminder for photographers: please be careful and walk lightly – don’t trample small seedlings that are emerging. The second and third week of February are still unusually early in the season, with many flowers yet to bloom – so please treadlightly over all our lupines-to-be, future phacelia, mini-mallows and others that aren’t showy yet, but soon will be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cass Blodgett leads weekly “learn your Sonoran Desert wildflowers” walks at Boyce Thompson Arboretum starting March 3. Also on March 3 Arizona author Colleen Miniuk-Sperry will also lead two duplicate morning and afternoon “where to find & how to shoot wildflowers” workshops.

Stachys Coccinea (Red Mint, shown in the photo at left); Tufted Evening primrose, Firecracker Penstemon, Deer Vetch, Rhyolite Bush, fragrant Berberis — and an unusual green-yellow flowered euphorbia can be seen and photographed flowering in Queen Creek Canyon about five miles drive due east of Boyce Thompson Arboretum on Highway 60.

To repeat the introduction above – flowers have begun to appear, but are still fairly few and scattered as of February 21. Watch for photogenic and camera-ready wildflowers in the gardens starting around March 1; until then bring your close-up lens for flower macros. A few native flowers are already at their peak, including Wild Cucumber (Marah gilensis), with lengthy vines crawling through, up and over native shrubs such as jojoba. Another flower that reached peaked color early this year is rhyolite bush (Crossosoma bigelovii), which visitors can see and photograph this week along the riparian corridor in Queen Creek Canyon as well as on the ‘switchbacks’ section of trail below Picket Post Mansion. And while Aloe plants are not native to the Sonoran Desert, you’ll find extensive collections here – with vivid flower spikes and clusters that are favored by hummingbirds. Preview Spring flowers with a relaxing three-minute video clip of highlights filmed around the trails a couple years back:

To see photos go to:

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